As the Jersey Shore recovers and contemplates the best way to rebuild, it has never been clearer that the proposed Townhomes at Bradley Cove should not be built on Asbury Park’s north end beach. The mainstream media is buzzing with idea of building resiliency, reducing a community’s vulnerability to climate change’s negative effects, while maintaining its structure and function, into our development plans. Asbury Park should be following suit. A quick look at the City’s storm surge map, and the Waterfront Redevelopment Area map, shows a high percentage of overlap. The conclusion is simple: Asbury Park’s planned waterfront development needs to include a major resiliency component. This piece is presently absent.
A logical and responsible approach would be for the City to start by addressing the most vulnerable aspect of the current Waterfront Redevelopment Area (WRA) Plan, the Townhomes at Bradley Cove. Below is a three-point strategy the City can employ to prevent development of Asbury Park’s north end beach and provide iStar adequate compensation for their development rights.
1. Refuse to Apply for a Green Acres Diversion: iStar plans to construct the townhomes, in part, on Green Acres land. The only way for them to do this is for the City to apply to the NJDEP for a Green Acres diversion. According to the Redevelopers Agreement, the City is not legally bound to do this. By exercising this legal right and declining iStar’s request to apply for the diversion, the City has a reasonable and immediate way to prevent development going forward as currently planned.
2. Broker a Deal with the County: The County has put the Bradley Cove tract on a priority list for purchase, which would ensure preservation of the area. The City should negotiate a three way deal in which the County buys the Bradley Cove tract from iStar as well as the rest of the north end beach from the City. That would allow the County to safeguard this sensitive area until they have the resources to create an oceanfront park. It would also give the City the needed cash to complete the proposed Springwood Avenue Park.
3. Require Amendments to the WRA Plan to include Resiliency: According to Mayor Johnson the City has been “looking at the 2001 plan with 2012 eyes” and planning to make changes. iStar and the City must seek public input and then jointly approve amendments. This amending process is the City’s opportunity to remove the Bradley Cove townhomes from the current plan and demand that resiliency is comprehensively incorporated into the plan (more to come on this in the coming weeks) before approving any WRA Plan amendments.
Over the last 5 years the people of Asbury Park and Monmouth County have come together to oppose the Bradley Cove townhomes and provide a vision of an oceanfront park on the north end beach. Now the ocean, in the form of Superstorm Sandy, has risen up to assert her voice and remove any doubt. The WRA Plan, and the potential diversion application, not only fritter away Green Acres Land, but also put the lives of our community members at risk. To ignore the will of the people and the might of the ocean is irresponsible governance. It favors short-term profits for iStar, while burdening the City and its taxpayers with the long-term cost of unsustainable development. Let’s hope our City Council is better than that.
Chair, Jersey Shore Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and Asbury Park Homeowner